• Belfer Center Research and Articles
  • Articles from Other Sources
  • 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Scorecard
  • Consolidation: Thwarting Nuclear Theft
  • Security Progress Report
  • The Threat Of Nuclear Terrorism
  • Nuclear Terrorism 101
  • Nuclear Terrorism Fact Sheet
  1. Bunn, Matthew, Securing the Bomb 2010, April, 2010. A comprehensive assessment of global efforts to secure and consolidate nuclear stockpiles, and a detailed action plan for securing all nuclear materials in four years.  Securing the Bomb 2010 was commissioned by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). The full report, with additional information on the threat of nuclear terrorism, is available for download on the NTI website.
  2. Allison, Graham, "South Korea and the Nuclear Security Summit," text of keynote address to Nuclear Security Symposium, a gathering of experts in Seoul, South Korea, Friday March 23, 2012, preceding the summit on March 26-27, 2012.
  3. Allison, Graham. "Washington Can Work: Celebrating Twenty Years With Zero Nuclear Terrorism." The Huffington Post, December 29, 2011.
  4. Tobey, William H. "Planning for Success at the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit," The Stanley Foundation, June 2011.
  5. Bunn, Matthew, and Yuri Morozov, Rolf Mowatt-Larrsen, Simon Saradzhyan, William Tobey, Viktor I. Yesin, and Pavel S. Zolotarev. The U.S.-Russia Joint Threat Assessment of Nuclear Terrorism. Cambridge, Mass., : Report for Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, June 6, 2011.
  6. Heinonen, Olli, "The Nuclear NonProliferation Regime Challenged," Presentation at the Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference, March 20, 2012, in Busan, South Korea, in advance of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
  7. Heinonen, Olli. "North Korean Nuclear Program in Transition," March 6, 2012. A slide presentation on the history and current status of North Korea's nuclear program, presented at a Belfer Center seminar by the Project on Managing the Atom.
  8. The Elbe Group, op-ed on U.S.-Russia cooperation, Global Post, March 20, 2012, "US and Russia Work Together Against Threat of Nuclear Terrorism."
  9. Mowatt-Larssen, Rolf. Al Qaeda's Religious Justification of Nuclear Terrorism. Working Paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, November 12, 2010.
  10. Tobey, William and Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. "The Armageddon Test: To Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, Follow the Uranium." Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, July 26, 2010.
  11. Mowatt-Larssen, Rolf. Al Qaeda Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat: Hype or Reality?. Paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, January 2010.
  12. Bunn, Matthew, Expected - or hoped for - outcomes of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, presentation, the 10th Annual RoK-UN Joint Conference on Disarmament and Nonproliferation in Jeju, Republic of Korea, Nov. 2011.
  13. Heinonen, Olli. "North Korea's Nuclear Enrichment: Capabilities and Consequences," June 22, 2011, Op-Ed, 38 North.org, explaining North Korea's political, military and cultural rationale for pursuing nuclear energy and weapons.
  14. Bunn, Matthew, and Maslin, Evgeniy P., All Stocks of Weapons-Usable Nuclear Materials Worldwide Must be Protected Against Global Terrorist Threats, Belfer Center paper, March 11, 2010.
  15. Bunn, Matthew, "Appropriate Effective Nuclear Security and Accounting: What is It?," July 18, 2008. Matthew Bunn discusses United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540—a major new tool for combating nuclear terrorism and proliferation that is little used.
  16. Bunn, Matthew, and Velikhov, Evgeny, Promoting Safe, Secure, and Peaceful Growth of Nuclear Energy: Next Steps for Russia and the United States, October 2010. The Managing the Atom (MTA) Project and the Russian Research Center’s Kurchatov Institute.
  17. Wier, Anthony, "Bombs That Won't Go Off," Op-ed, Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2006.
  18. Wier, Anthony, and Bunn, Matthew, "Terrorist Nuclear Weapon Construction: How Difficult?"Book chapter, September 2006.
  19. Tobey, William, and Bunn, Matthew, "The Non-State Actor Nuclear Supply Chain", presentation, April 4-5, 2011, at the Workshop on “Cooperation to Control Non-State Nuclear Proliferation: Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction and UN Resolutions 1540 and 1373” sponsored by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.
  1. Nuclear Threat Initiative, NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index, Building a Framework for Assurance, Accountability, and Action (Washington D.C.: Nuclear Threat Initiative, January 2012).
  2. Cann, Michelle Kelsey Davenport, and Margaret Balza, "The Nuclear Security Summit: Assessment of National Commitments" (Washington, D.C.: Arms Control Association and Partnership for Global Security, March 2012).
  3. International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Material Report 2011: Nuclear Weapons and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production (Princeton, N.J.: Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University, 2011).
  4. Luongo, Kenneth, "Nuclear Security Governance for the 21st Century: Assessment and Action Plan" (Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korean Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, March 2012).
  5.  Fissile Materials Working Group, "Preventing Nuclear Terror in the 21st Century: Policy Recommendations" (Washington, D.C.: Fissile Materials Working Group, January 2012).
  6. Fitzpatrick, Mark, and Jasper Pandza, "Maintaining High-Level Focus on Nuclear Security" (Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, February 2012).
  7. Pomper, Miles "The 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit and HEU Minimization" (Washington, D.C.: U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, January 2012).
  8. Hibbs, Mark, "Mountain to Climb: The Seoul Nuclear Security Summit," Jane's Intelligence Review, 14 February 2012.
  9. Glaser, Alexander and Frank N. von Hippel, "Global Cleanout: Reducing the Threat of HEU-Fueled Nuclear Terrorism," Arms Control Today, January/February 2006.
  10. Papers presented at the Second International Symposium on HEU Minimization, Vienna, 23-25 January 2012.
  11. Nuclear Threat Initiative, "Past and Current Civilian HEU Reduction Efforts." 15 July 2011.
  12. "The Global Elimination of Civilian Use of Highly Enriched Uranium"special section of Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 15, No. 2  (July 2008);
  13. Podvig, Pavel, "Toward a better Nuclear Security Summit," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 22 February 2012

Summit Scorecard

by William H. Tobey, Matthew Bunn, Eben Harrell, and Martin Malin
March 2012
Download the PDF (4 pages, 160KB)

The success of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit will depend on how much progress has been made to fulfill the commitments made by nations at the 2010 Washington Summit, how much overall progress is being made toward effective security for all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material, and how the Seoul Summit strengthens what was agreed in Washington. While some achievements have already been publicized, the Seoul Summit will undoubtedly occasion additional announcements. This document is intended to serve as a brief scorecard to evaluate progress toward effective nuclear security, and hence to judge the success of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

Commitments from the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit

National Commitments
The United States encouraged participants in the Washington Summit to commit to specific national actions to improve nuclear security, in addition to the steps outlined in the summit communiqué; in response, 29 countries made 54 such commitments. They ranged from Chile's agreement to send all of its highly enriched uranium (HEU) — amounting to roughly 18 kilograms — to the United States for secure storage to Belgium's modest contribution to the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Security Fund.

The Partnership for Global Security and the Arms Control Association found that by February of 2012, roughly 80 percent of the specific commitments made by states at the 2010 Summit had been fulfilled.1

Work Plan
The Washington Summit also issued a politically binding work plan with some 50 separate steps to be undertaken by participating nations. These steps were generally either long-term projects, such as gaining sufficient states parties' ratification of the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material to allow for its entry into force, or ongoing processes, such as assistance for implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which, among other things, requires states to provide "appropriate effective" security and accounting for nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear materials.

While at least some progress has been made toward virtually all of these steps, the very nature of the work dictates that few have been accomplished completely, one exception being the revision of the International Atomic Energy Agency's key document on nuclear security (INFCIRC/225). Thus, the work plan is progressing, but far from complete.

What to look for in evaluating progress at Seoul:

  • Fulfillment of 2010 national commitments
  • Significant new national commitments to improve nuclear security
  • Continued commitment to an effective work plan

Progress in the Four-Year Effort to Secure Nuclear Weapons and Materials2

Improving security for the highest risk stockpiles:

  • Pakistan
    • Progress: Unknown
    • Remaining Risk: High
    • Risk trend: Worsening
  • Russia
    • Progress: Significant
    • Remaining risk: Medium
    • Risk trend: Stable or slowly declining
  • Research Reactors with Enough HEU for a Crude Bomb
    • Progress: Significant
    • Remaining risk: Medium
    • Risk trend: Declining

Achieving a baseline level of nuclear security:

  • Progress: Modest
  • Remaining risk: Medium
  • Risk trend: Slowly declining

Consolidating stockpiles at fewer locations:

  • Progress: Significant, but some categories not addressed.
  • Remaining risk: Medium
  • Risk trend: Declining

Strengthening the global nuclear security regime:

  • Progress: Moderate
  • Remaining risk: Medium
  • Risk trend: Slowly declining

Improving security practices, training, and culture:

  • Progress: Moderate
  • Remaining risk: Medium
  • Risk trend: Declining

What to look for in evaluating progress at Seoul:

  • Recognition by states with weapons and materials at high risk that nuclear security is a significant problem and demands attention by national leaders
  • Commitment to ensuring that all states with nuclear weapons, separated plutonium, and HEU have at least a baseline level of security for these stocks in place
  • Commitment to sustain over the long haul nuclear security where physical and procedural upgrades have been implemented
  • Acceleration of HEU reactor conversions/closures, with the goal of ending civil use of HEU by a date certain
  • Consolidation, and certainly not expansion, of weapons and weapons-usable material storage sites
  • Ratification of nuclear security conventions and amendments, and in the meantime voluntary adherence before entry into force
  • Commitment to understand and implement lessons learned from security lapses that led to seizures of nuclear material beyond state control and to implement remedial measures
  • Support for and implementation of recommendations by the IAEA Office of Nuclear Security and the World Institute for Nuclear Security and participation in peer review audits of nuclear security practices.

______________________________

Notes:
1 Michelle Cann, Kelsey Davenport and Margaret Balza, The Nuclear Security Summit: Assessment of National Commitments (Washington, D.C.: Arms Control Association and Partnership for Global Security Report, Updated March 2012)

2 For specifics see Matthew Bunn, Eben Harrell, and Martin B. Malin, "Progress on Securing Nuclear Weapons and Materials: the Four-Year Effort and Beyond," (Cambridge, Mass.: Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, March 2012).

Consolidation: Thwarting Nuclear Theft
by Matthew Bunn and Eben Harrell
Download the PDF (50 pages, 1MB)

A detailed assessment of the campaign to consolidate dangerous nuclear materials worldwide in fewer, more secure sites, with analysis of success stories, ongoing risks, near-term opportunities, and numerous recommendations for next steps.

About the Authors:
Matthew Bunn is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Before coming to Harvard, Bunn served as an adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as a study director at the National Academy of Sciences, and as editor of Arms Control Today. He is the author or co-author of some 20 books or major technical reports, and over a hundred articles in publications ranging from Science to The Washington Post. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; a recipient of the American Physical Society's Joseph A. Burton Forum Award for "outstanding contributions in helping to formulate policies to decrease the risks of theft of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials"; and the recipient of the Hans A. Bethe Award from the Federation of American Scientists for "science in service to a more secure world."

Eben Harrell is a Research Associate at the Project on Managing the Atom in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. Harrell, an award-winning journalist, worked for four years in the London bureau of TIME magazine prior to joining HKS. He has also written for The Economist and Sports Illustrated and worked on the staff of The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh and the Aspen Times in Colorado.

Progress on Securing Nuclear Weapons and Materials: The Four-Year Effort and Beyond
by Matthew Bunn, Eben Harrell, and Martin Malin

Download the PDF

New Report Cites Progress, Challenges in Nuclear Security

On the eve of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, a new study finds that an international initiative to secure all vulnerable nuclear stockpiles within four years has reduced the dangers posed by many of the world's highest-risk nuclear stockpiles. But the new analysis, by researchers at Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom, also concludes that much will remain to be done to ensure that all nuclear weapons and material are secure when the current four-year effort comes to an end.
The co-authors are Matthew Bunn, associate professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, Martin B. Malin, executive director of the Project on Managing the Atom in the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and research associate Eben Harrell. The study, "Progress on Securing Nuclear Weapons and Materials: the Four-Year Effort and Beyond," was released in advance of the Seoul summit on March 26-27, 2012, being attended by leaders or senior officials from 54 countries and four international organizations.

The Threat Of Nuclear Terrorism: What's New? What's True?
by Matthew Bunn
Download the PDF (52 pages, 2MB)

About the Author:
Matthew Bunn is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before coming to Harvard, Bunn served as an adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as a study director at the National Academy of Sciences, and as editor of Arms Control Today. He is the author or co-author of some 20 books or major technical reports, and over a hundred articles in publications ranging from Science to The Washington Post. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; a recipient of the American Physical Society's Joseph A. Burton Forum Award for "outstanding contributions in helping to formulate policies to decrease the risks of theft of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials"; and the recipient of the Hans A. Bethe Award from the Federation of American Scientists for "science in service to a more secure world."

Nuclear Terrorism 101: Frequently Asked Questions

What is nuclear terrorism?
The detonation by terrorists of a yield-producing nuclear bomb containing fissile material. President Obama has described it as the “most immediate and extreme threat to global security.”

What is “fissile material”? Why is it needed for nuclear bombs?
Fissile material is matter that can sustain an explosive fission chain reaction (when an atom’s nucleus splits, releasing a massive amount of energy). Fissile material is the essential ingredient required to produce the chain reaction that causes a nuclear explosion.

What fissile material is needed to make a nuclear bomb?
Highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium.

How much HEU would be required to make a nuclear bomb?
35 lbs (16 kilograms). The International Atomic Energy Agency’s “significant quantity” is 55 lbs (25 kg) of HEU, but this is often considered an overestimate. For an even simpler, “gun-type” design, more HEU (110-132 lbs; 50-60 kg) would be required.

What is the global stockpile of HEU?
3,168,000 lbs (1,440,000 kg) [275,000 lbs uncertainty each way].

How much plutonium would be required for a nuclear bomb?
18 lbs (8 kg).

What is the global stockpile of separated plutonium?
1,089,000 lbs (495,000 kg) [22,000 lbs uncertainty each way].

What is “nuclear security”?
Security measures for nuclear weapons, materials, and facilities to reduce the chance that nuclear weapons and materials could be stolen and fall into terrorist hands, or that nuclear facilities could be sabotaged.

What is “nuclear safety”?
Preventing an accident at a nuclear reactor, such as Fukushima.

What is “nuclear non-proliferation”?
Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries.

What is a “dirty bomb”?
A dirty bomb is a device to spread radioactive material, for example with conventional explosives, to contaminate an area.

Is a “dirty bomb” a nuclear weapon?
No. A dirty bomb does not result in a nuclear explosion. It simply spreads radioactive material, and is sometimes called a “weapon of mass disruption” as its damage would be primarily economic and psychological.

How many nuclear weapons are there in the world?
20,500.

How many nuclear buildings are there worldwide containing HEU or separated plutonium?
Hundreds.

Is there enough missing fissile material to make a bomb? 
Yes. In 2005, the Director of the CIA testified that “there is sufficient material unaccounted for [from Russian nuclear facilities] so that it would be possible for those with know-how to construct a nuclear weapon.”

How could terrorists deliver a nuclear weapon to its targets? 
Through the same routes as drugs, illegal immigrants, and legal goods.

What could be the physical effects of a nuclear terrorist attack?
A 10-kiloton nuclear bomb set off at Times Square on a typical workday could kill half a million people and spread deadly fallout many miles downwind.

What would be the economic impact?
A study by the RAND Corporation estimated that the early, direct economic costs of a nuclear terrorist attack on a U.S. port would exceed $1 trillion, about 10 times the cost of 9/11. There would be immediate pressure to close all US ports to prevent another attack. Given that U.S. ports carry out 7.5% of all global trade activity, the consequences for the world economy would be catastrophic. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has argued that a nuclear terrorist attack “would stagger the world economy and thrust tens of millions of people into dire poverty,” creating “a second death toll throughout the developing world.”

Can nuclear terrorism be prevented?
Yes. The most important single step to prevent nuclear terrorism is to secure all nuclear weapons and fissile material, so they can't be stolen and fall into terrorist hands. No fissile material available to terrorists – no nuclear terrorism. If all nuclear weapons and all nuclear weapons-usable materials were locked up as securely as gold in Fort Knox or treasures in the Kremlin Armory, we would have reduced the likelihood of a nuclear terrorist attack to nearly zero.

Nuclear Terrorism Fact Sheet

Download the PDF

QUESTIONS ANSWERED IN THIS FACT SHEET:

  1. WHO could be planning a nuclear terrorist attack?
  2. WHAT nuclear weapons could terrorists use?
  3. WHERE could terrorists acquire a nuclear bomb?
  4. WHEN could terrorists launch the first nuclear attack?
  5. HOW could terrorists deliver a nuclear weapon to its target?
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